GVI: Volunteer in Costa Rica

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We are proud to launch our new GVI Business Internships Abroad!

Business Internships Abroad are a great way to apply your business management and leadership skills, explore the world, experience new cultures, contribute to a sustainable cause and kickstart your career!


You can make a difference and volunteer with GVI in Costa Rica! From helping the local wildlife to working with underprivileged children, you can make a difference and learn about a new culture. GVI is sure to offer something for every type of volunteer in Costa Rica. Read more about each volunteer opportunity:

  • Wildlife Expedition in Costa Rica: Volunteers have the chance to work outdoors in the rainforest with environmental and marine conservation. During your stay in this beautiful national park, you will participate in research surveys and exploring the local nature and wildlife including jaguars, pumas, turtles, tropical birds and more.
  • Volunteer to Teach English in Costa Rica: Live on the Costa Rican coast while teaching English to underprivileged children, which is a very valuable skill. Volunteers can also help out with other subjects and activities.
  • Volunteer with Children in Costa Rica: Work with children and immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture. Local schools need help with lesson plans, workshop and extracurricular activities.
  • Jaguar Conservation in Costa Rica: Jaguar conservation work is becoming more and more important as the species continues to suffer and decline. Volunteers can make a big contribution while learning and researching in the beautiful forests of Costa Rica.
  • Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica: Work with the GVI conservation team to protect various species of endangered turtles. By recording data and patrolling beaches, volunteers can ensure the turtle population continues to thrive.
  • Alternative Spring Break Costa Rica Community Development: Use your spring break to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged communities; instead of simply traveling, spend your time giving back to a local community in Costa Rica. You get a chance to get involved in helping to develop the infrastructure and educational environments of the local community.

Questions & Answers


based on 27 reviews
  • Impact 8.2
  • Support 8.6
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 8.5
  • Safety 8.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 27

A Wonderful Experience

During my stay at Jalova, I worked a good deal of time on the Jaguar Project, usually by traveling up and down the beach between mile markers 18 and 14, where cam traps had been set up near the beach or near a recently predated turtle carcass. Carcass cameras were set up whenever a new turtle carcass appeared on the beach and would remain there for almost up to a week. Mile marker cameras, on the other hand, would remain where they were set up every week, with only their SD cards being swapped out every Tuesday on Jag Cams. Once we returned to base after Jag Cams, we would review the footage we recovered to see if any jaguars were still in the area. On Thursdays, if you had the stamina and endurance for it, some of us would go on what is called Jag Walk. It's the 14.5 mile walk you've probably already heard about. During that walk, I would alternate with others every 3 miles different positions we were given: GPS tracking, noticing whether we saw any jaguar tracks, noting how many turtle nests we saw, counting how many turtle tracks there were, or recording data at every half-mile. At the end of Jag Walk, we were given the chance to have a nice meal in the town of Tortuguero.

Living accommodations on base were very basic. The diet was very vegetarian-oriented due to a lack of a working fridge. We would get fried or grilled chicken every Friday from Tortuguero. Showers and dorms were co-ed, but we did have locked doors for showers and toilets. Washing was very basic and had to be done by hand, and drying clothes might take some time due to the constant humidity and unpredictable weather.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. The people at Jalova were very welcoming and a lot of fun to work with. I thoroughly recommend to anyone, who shares a passion in environmental conservation, to go to Jalova.

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Program the Changed my Life!

Hi there fellow adventure seekers! My name is Kirsten Svitich. I am a 20 year old country girl from Alberta, Canada planning to attend Journalism school in the future. I am currently travelling the world to discover all the adventures it has to offer! After graduating high school, I had a desire to escape my small hometown and see the world, while making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than myself. I knew that I wanted to volunteer but I also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. So, I began my search to find the program that was right for me. After a lengthy, intensive search I found exactly what I was looking for. At 18 years old, in March of 2016, I joined the Childcare and Community Development program in Costa Rica with GVI. And it was the best decision I could have made!

How did I decide to join GVI? Well, like any millennial, I took to the internet to do my research. I found many comparable companies in terms of quality of programs. However, as a recent high school graduate my budget was not significantly high. When I came upon the GVI website I was immediately intrigued. “Is this too good to be true?”, I thought, as I read the descriptions of the programs and their corresponding fees. I continued reading reviews and watching testimonials from former GVI members and quickly realized that no, it was not too good to be true... it was a perfect fit! Yes, there were other volunteer companies that offered similar and less expensive programs, however Global Vision International is committed to abide by the UN’s sustainable development goals while working WITH the local communities in order to ensure that only the most important and effective help is provided. This was a very important factor to me as I wanted to ensure that I was working on a project that was directly beneficial to those who needed it most.

So now that I had found the organization for me, all I had left to do was the fun part; pick my program! Now you think that this would be easy. However with the possibility to go to so many countries all over the world the decision was not so simple! There were so many interesting and different programs that narrowing it down to just one took some time. I have always had a passion for working with kids so the childcare programs drew my attention. But with many other options such as marine conservation, construction or women’s empowerment, there is definitely something for everyone!

I eventually decided on Costa Rica as my destination. The program that you choose is purely a personal decision based on how comfortable you will be in certain situations. Costa Rica attracted me because of the remote location of the project and the simple way of life at the volunteer house as well as all the beautiful activities Costa Rica offers as a country. Again if this isn’t your thing, there are other programs that may be a better fit. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the placements will be offered in what are considered “developing countries”. So be prepared for a more simple way of life such as shared rooms, bunk beds, local food and no hot water. But don’t let this stop you! For me this was one of the best parts of my experience! To be able to let go of the material world and prioritize things differently really opened my mind. I loved everything about my accommodation in Quepos, Costa Rica including the staff!! From the very first moment I arrived I felt so comfortable and supported in whatever I needed!
The training I received was very informative and I felt that I was prepared to handle the project with professionalism. As a group, we would spend every Monday planning our week of activities for the children. Then Tuesday to Friday would be spent on the project site providing instruction to them, usually in the form of crafts or games. All of this was done under the supervision of GVI staff, so if we ever had any questions they were there to help! Seeing the smiling faces of the children each morning when I arrived at the project, and spending the day sharing with them the program we had developed gave me a real sense of purpose and accomplishment. Then the weekend was free to spend however I chose. This was a perfect way to explore the country and get closer to the other volunteers!

The people I met while volunteering became some of my closest friends that I still keep in touch with today. We had so much fun planning lessons for the project and exploring the area surrounding our new home on the weekends! There was a perfect mix of work and free time but no matter what we were doing we were always having a great time. I had some of the best moments of my life volunteering in Costa Rica and I made memories that I will cherish forever. So if you are thinking about volunteering with Global Vision International, do not hesitate. It changed my life and I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of their amazing team and help do my part to make the world a better place.

How can this program be improved?
This program was amazing from start to finish. There is nothing I would want to change about it. But to be improved, I think that more community development programs could be implemented. Especially ones that involve members of the community themselves working alongside Global Vision staff and volunteers. I think that this would overall create a stronger relationship with the community and help them to achieve goals that are important to them.
Yes, I recommend this program
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A summer to remember!

This U18 wildlife conservation course in Jalova was certainly an excellent and rewarding experience! It has helped improve my future as all the volunteers that I went with learned to become more independent and can be used on our CV and personal statement so that we can stand out from the crowd, it is definitely worth it. Together we overcame the smell of our dirty clothes, the harsh thunder storms and the language barriers with a true sense of accomplishment, we all did our part in helping the biodiversity of the Costa Rican jungle. It was truly spectacular to witness things on this trip that most people would never experience in their lifetime, for example seeing a green turtle lay her eggs on the beach during the night was simply breath taking. It was truly inspirational to see the work that GVI has done conserving the growth of the country and the unique and spectacular marine and wild life that it has to offer.

How can this program be improved?
More involvement with the turtles that were along the coast.
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI Quepos, Costa Rica

My name is Caylie, I am a current sophomore at the University of Missouri in Columbia. I had the opportunity to travel to Quepos, Costa Rica with Global Visions International last summer for a two week program. This opportunity has given me more than I ever could have hoped for when initially signing up for my GVI program. In my two weeks, I volunteered with young children, increased my Spanish skills, and made friends from all around the world. The volunteer work in Quepos was not easy, but it was extremely rewarding, fun and an overall learning experience for everyone involved. When attending this trip, I knew I would be giving back to the community; but what I didn’t know, was truly how much the community would give to me. Since my time in Costa Rica, I have learned new things and been exposed to new situations, people and culture. I can only hope that I will have another opportunity like this one again sometime in my life. If you are interested in travel and volunteer, GVI is the organization for you.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing Experience!

I did a 3 month child care programme in Costa Rica and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Everyday was so much fun, and I have made so many amazing life long friends from all over the world. I have also had so many great experiences and learnt so much from the amazing community that we worked in.

The staff at GVI always went the extra mile to make sure that everyone was making the most of their experience both in project and outside of it. Inside of project they always encouraged volunteers to do and contribute more, and outside of project they organised fun nights like Trivia night and Salsa night.

It was also amazing to be so welcomed into the community where we worked, and to be so immersed in a new culture. I have learnt so many things from the kids that we worked with, even when our only form of communication was a mix of broken spanish, english, and sign language!

The whole experience has helped me grow so much as a person, and I really have left a massive piece of my heart in Costa Rica!

How can this program be improved?
I could have received a bit more communication before I began the programme, such as what to expect when I arrived at the airport and things like that because I did feel like I was going in a little blind.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Gvi changed my view of life. In Jalova I respected nature as he is. I learned so much about animals and their habitats. The monkeys for example where so crazy. When we where surrounded by them in the jungle I felt like I was in the zoo but then the monkeys where the tourists and we where the animals.
It's been a month since I left Jalova now and I really miss this place already! I wish that one day I will return back to Base. It's such a beautiful place with nice people. So happy I've done this adventure,

Yes, I recommend this program

An unforgettable experience!

My volunteer experience in Quepos, Costa Rica with volunteers ages 18 and above was an amazing and unforgettable experience. The program consisted of organizing activities for local children and promoting sustainable development in their community. I can safely say that I made an impact on the locals and the community where I volunteered. By designing educational activities for the children, participating in beach cleans, and helping organize a community surfing event, I know that I have made a long lasting impact. I highly recommend this GVI program. It was such a wonderful experience!

Yes, I recommend this program
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What an experience!

I can pin many of the things I have done in the past few years and much of the person I have become today as having stemmed from the time I spent with GVI in Costa Rica. It was such a formative experience for me, in the way I now see the world, my own personal development and even the people I have in my life. I really did make friends for life, I'm still in contact with people I was away with and one is even my best friend three years down the line! I learnt so much from the homestay, construction work and adventure week and Costa Rica will always be a very special place to me, all thanks to GVI!

Yes, I recommend this program
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A different World!

I was at Jalova for a month and everything I did gave me a feeling of pride and accomplishment; simply put, my time there was life changing.

Foremost is accommodation, which for me was a pleasant shared dorm, with kitchen and shower facilities, all of which located on the coast of the beautiful and secluded Tortuguero National Park: don’t expect a five star hotel, we’re here to take part in jungle, beach, and canal research as a Jalova volunteers, and not to be shown around as tourists by guides.

As for ‘events and entertainment’, it would be hard to put a price on the amount of time spent canoeing and hiking the jungle, or the education that was provided by the experienced and engaging staff members. And the food? It was awesome. Everybody there cooks with an emphasis on making exceptional meals for everyone.

I literally couldn’t list all of the incredible animals I saw in my month here, so I’ll give you a couple of highlights:

I first saw a great curassow in a zoo and thought they were a flightless bird – our legendary boat driver Jorge spotted one for us perched in a tree, and it quickly flew to another. The forest came alive for ten minutes when our survey was interrupted by a herd of at least 25 white lipped peccary – the canopy was wild with bird calls and monkey howls until something big (perhaps a tapiir or a jaguar) scared them away. On a quiet and serene canal survey, three neotropical river otters popped up and studied us not more than five meters away from the canoe – for five seconds, before they submerged again like little furry submarines, we were in the presence of animals so shy and rare that a lot of the staff hadn’t even seen them. During a night walk (a survey where you hike the beach without torches looking for nesting turtles) we spotted a leatherback disguising a nest – we were even able to measure her before she returned to the sea.

I will conclude with something a holiday cannot provide: the valuable Conservation experience and education you can gain here. I’ve been told that employers love to see voluntary work on a CV, but my month at Jalova gave more than just a nice paragraph for my CV: it gave me the frame of mind that I can actually achieve whatever I set my mind to. This new frame of mind is of course something personal to me, and everyone will have a different experience, but based on my experience I would advise anybody thinking of volunteering to go for it and join the adventure.

Yes, I recommend this program
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In the jungle!

During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to travel alone to Costa Rica to participate in a two-week wildlife and marine conservation under 18’s volunteering program with GVI. Alongside ten other people from different parts of the globe, we came together to form a team to fight against the heat, the thunder storms, the language barriers and the constant smell of dirty laundry, in an effort to support the future for Costa Rican bio diversity.
The work that we assisted and observed on was carried out in order to help the preservation of the conservation of endangered species, but I also learned a lot about myself and where I would like to expand my skills as an environmentalist. My experience has had a positive impact on myself, allowing me to grow and learn more about the world that we live in! Volunteering enabled me to increase my confidence in meeting new people, being in unfamiliar surroundings and taking on new challenges whilst surrounded by an amazingly diverse rainforest.
I can't wait to return to the jungle for another eye- opening experience!

Yes, I recommend this program

Under 18's Wildlife conservation

This summer I went on the Under 18's wildlife conservation trip in Costa Rica. I loved the experience of being completely immersed in the jungle and the culture of the area. I felt safe and comfortable with the GVI staff and volunteers whilst I was there which added to my enjoyment of the trip. I was lucky to have some incredible encounters with sloths, monkeys, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, an abundance of birds and many other vertebrates. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and I hope to return to the Costa Rican jungle with GVI in the future.

Yes, I recommend this program
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From Hospital to Hammock

I was just a normal teenage girl who enjoyed normal teenage stuff, I loved to dance in fact I was pretty good at it.
I can remember when all that changed like it was yesterday.

Me and my mum sat with the UKs top othorpedic consultant who told me I had a genetic condition in my feet, which in the worst case scenario would change my whole life.
I was in constant pain, pain which over the years grew to be excruciating! I was unable to do normal things - I couldn’t focus on school, friendships and certainly knew I would never dance like I used too. The pain was to much.

I became withdrawn and depressed and was under many teams who tried to help me cope.

After a few years of surgery, the worst case scenario happened - I was to have the joints in both my feet fused together.

I am lucky to have an brilliant mum and dad and three crazy sisters who was with me every step of the way! The first foot was operated on and I was in a wheel chair no weight bearing for a long long time. I felt more and more isolated, my mum often gave me things to focus on. We spoke about the world and it’s issues. I began to read and read and learn about animals and conservation! My mum forever telling me this part of my life will one day be over and I could dare to dream again.

I eventually learned to walk again with help from amazing physio team .

My mum decided I needed a hobby and took me and my sister Bella to kayaking lessons. I didn’t have to use my feet and so felt free and at home.

Soon it was time for the next foot to be done. This one didn’t go so well. I got an infection in my foot and spent a long long time in hospital. I remember being re-admitted to the hospital on New Year’s Eve and didn’t believe this would ever end. I was on endless medication and my parents could only take me out of the hospital for a few hours at a time as I had to be back on the IV medicine to control the infection in my bones.

As my mum said, day by day I got better and better and was able to use my wheel chair less and less!

From such a dark place, my interest in conservation was born. Me and mum would often visit the GVI website and dare to think maybe one day I could actually do a program because you see, me and family are not from a financially privileged background and so we know it would be a mission impossible

And guess what... with help from my mum, dad, grandparents and my Sunday job, we did it.

I visited Costa Rica and met the amazing most inspirational people from GVI team. I didn’t let my condition stop me - sometimes I couldn’t keep the pace of the rest of the team but they stayed with me and kept me motivated.

I dreamed of seeing amazing animals in the wild - and i finally did. I was felt like I was at home and a part of a team who shared the same the ideas as me. And what we did actually counted, for example we did rainforest servays most days and the data we collected went to local people which can helped them improve there growing business. I also took part in a beach clean - and I was absolutely mind blown due to the amount of litter we picked up on the beach near GVI’s base. 215Kg of litter was collected in just over one hour! Collecting the litter made me feel even more determined to dedicate my life to conservation.

I did it! I actually did two weeks without my parents my wheel chair or waking aids! So if u are reading this and life had thrown you a curl ball - like my mum says these days will pass and if it’s something you dream today - GO FOR IT

How can this program be improved?
Being from a family with low income this experience could of only of happened with my family and my own contribution of money. It was very hard. So to improve this program they should make the price lower and more accessible to family’s like mine.
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic experience

One of the best months of a lifetime! I loved my time there and wished I had booked longer. The jungle is stunning and the beach is so close to base. The actual volunteering is really exciting, getting to spot animals and if your lucky you could see something really special! I would recommend it for anyone interested in a biological field or anyone just looking for something a bit different to do. Facilities are a bit basic but it's all part of the experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Best two weeks ever

I spent 2 weeks with GVI on the under 18’s program and it was some of the best weeks in my life. I spent most of my time constructing a children’s play ground. GVI have had such an impact on the community and it is clearly visible how appreciative the community are of all the work they do even the children love to come and help with whatever it is that you are doing. The support I received from the GVI staff was out of this world. They were all so approachable and easy to get along with. They made my time there more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to make an impact as well as having a good time.

Yes, I recommend this program
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For those who want to experience wilderness, with a little less 'wild'.

In 2015 I 'volunteered' with GVI in Jalova for 2 months. I want to start off by saying that I have many memories here that I do cherish, and had many wonderful moments, as well as having met some really cool like minded people. But, similar to some other reviews here, I feel a little 'duped' by GVI...

I initially had signed up for a 6 month internship, perhaps in a flurry of wine-fuelled, post undergraduate excitement at the prospect of living life out in the jungle, surrounded by amazing wildlife. I was keen to pick up some conservation volunteering opportunities following my undergrad degree, and felt that this was a strong option. Let me tell you this, it is certainly an option, but it costs a small fortune - not really viable for a struggling undergrad just out of university with little cash! Sobering up to the reality of my finances after realising that it'd take me over a year to save enough money to afford to go on my income then, I reduced my time to 2 months instead of 6. In lieu of the 6 month internship, I opted into one of the lovely GVI 'add-on's', paying a little extra to do the biological survey techniques 'module' (more on that to follow).

After 6 months of scrimping and saving I finally made it to Jalova - jungle paradise. If you're looking for an opportunity to live in basic accommodation in a beautiful national park, this is ideal. My fondest memories come from the personal experiences there, being in the heart of a wilderness was truly special, I feel like these experiences were worth the price tag alone. As part of the deal, volunteers are given a great deal of health and safety and survey training, a lot of which does feel quite corporate, as we're reminded of GVI's mission and aims... All looks great on paper, but soon the cracks begin to show. Staff on the base are paid very poorly for chaperoning volunteers, I'm not sure what development and training opportunities provide their staff to ensure a positive experience, but I found some of the staff to be under a lot of pressure and often not the greatest mentors.

The quality of the science is also debatable. Jungle surveys were brilliant fun - getting to walk through the bush and look for different animals (what's not to like about that?!), but I feel the 'data' collected from these surveys probably isn't that useful, and failed to really see any evidence of the usefulness of the data. Bird surveys are done in a similar fashion, but this time you're on a canoe on the canal... Canoeing through a jungle was great fun, but not quite sure how much 'science' this actually covered. The turtle and the jaguar project are more useful, the turtle project (a draw for many of the volunteers there) sees you triangulating turtle nests, counting eggs and monitoring hatchling success (disclaimer: when booking with GVI, make sure you read up on turtle nesting seasons if you have particular ambitions for working with leatherbacks or green turtles, or indeed hatchlings!) There was ample opportunity for some amazing night time beach adventures, stumbling around the beach in the dead of night looking for turtles was truly an exhilarating experience.

In addition to the 'scientific research', you also have to put in some hours cooking, cleaning and maintaining the camp. Absolutely no problem, I have no issues pulling my weight and doing my bit. I think we were expected to do 2 half days per week, which is not completely unreasonable, and hey, jungle cooking is part of the fun! Where the fun stopped, however, was during a visit to Jalova from the GVI country director and some of the team from the Quepos project. During one of my final weeks there, we received a site visit from 5 or 6 GVI staff members, a great opportunity for the staff to check up on each other and see how the other projects work... This, however, meant more cleaning and cooking duties for the paying volunteers, and less surveys! I found myself in a position where I had 2 full days of cooking and cleaning in a week, and much less time doing the things I had scrimped and saved to do. I found this to be quite unfair, particularly since it was nearing the end of my time at Jalova. My final days on camp were also marred slightly by a lack of permits to undertake some of the jungle surveys. It appears MINAE were taking their time in approving the permits for GVI, so we legally weren't allowed to undertake any jungle surveys. We had a couple of 2 week volunteers with us, who were seriously missing out on what they'd signed up for.

As I mentioned previously, I also undertook the biological survey techniques 'module'. I think I paid around £100 extra for this privilege, but I'm really not sure what I gained from it. The module saw me using textbooks from the library to put together some reports on species (dated textbooks, so the reports were probably a little old school in terms of scientific accuracy...). We also had to identify some species, which granted was a useful experience, and put together a presentation on a conservation topic of our choice. Hardly groundbreaking stuff. A lot of the skills you might already have picked up in university, college or school, so I'm not sure why this cost an extra £100? You got me on that one, GVI!

I know it does sound like I'm being quite negative, but I really do cherish the time I spent on Jalova. I met some wonderful people and got to live alongside some amazing wildlife. I would just do a little more research next time I'm looking for this experience. It really did feel like a summer camp, you're bound by GVI's rules and regulations, and the experiences you have can often feel a little corporate... I'll leave you with this story (which I wrote for the blog, but surprisingly hasn't made it in!)

One night we were on turtle survey, stalking the beach looking for leatherbacks nesting. Against the crash of the waves we could hear a rasping noise. Carefully we scanned the area and came across a huge leatherback turtle. Something wasn't quite right. On investigation we found a huge bite in her neck. The stench of jaguar was ripe in the air. We'd come across a recent attack. We couldn't have been more than 2 minutes behind the attack - you could almost feel the jaguar watching you from the jungle. We moved swiftly on from the site, a little shaken up from the find, and reluctant to get in the way of nature. Later that night, the turtle died.

The next morning, another group was on nest survey (walking up the beach to check the condition of the marked nests). Our nighttime survey group was woken up by an excited staff member who'd found our dead leatherback with jaguars around it - a mother and cubs! The jaguars hadn't been scared off by the group on the beach and were apparently quite content with the humans on the beach. There was an opportunity for everyone on base to go see jaguars in the wild! Buzzing with excitement, everyone was ready to set off until we were stopped by a staff member on base telling us we couldn't go as jaguars were dangerous and we had to leave keep our distance. Thankfully, I think everyone thought screw it and went regardless. Being around a like minded group of wildlife enthusiasts, there was no chance we weren't getting to see this. I'm glad we rebelled against GVI's procedures, if we hadn't, I wouldn't have had this incredible experience.

Take from that what you will, rules are there to keep you safe, but sometimes breaking or bending them can be fun.

How can this program be improved?
Lower initial cost, less of a corporate feel, more money invested in the programme. Food rations were basic, and we were expected to pay for treats and biscuits on base ourselves... With all due respect, I'd paid quite a bit of cash to be there, if I wanted a biscuit with my tea, I was taking it. I'm not sure I could really see where the £2,500 I spent went...
Yes, I recommend this program


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About Global Vision International (GVI)

GVI is an award-winning organisation that tackles critical local and global issues by operating education and training programs on sustainable development projects around the world.

Formed in 1997, we have been operating our award-winning...